Thursday, August 31, 2017

Deep Cuts: August '17

Welcome to the fourth installment of Deep Cuts, a new monthly segment highlighting standout tracks that weren't given a spotlight to blossom. All songs listed below have been released in the month of August on albums where they weren't previously released as a single. The only condition I've imposed upon myself is that no artist can have more than one song. 

Brockhampton - Fight
Saturation II | Conscious Hip-Hop

Brockhampton's Saturation II was more of the same. For most, that was a great thing. For me, it was nothing more than average. A collection of similarly-minded songs with minimal risks thrown in failed to grab my attention. That was, before 'Junky' and follow-up track 'Fight' thwarted perception with vicarious production, structuring, and content that went against the grain of Saturation II's past. The latter, staring Ameer Vann and Dom McLennon, confronts the issues black adolescent's face while growing up in America. Vann in particular, the group's best and most commanding emcee, describes the events of his upbringing with such composed clarity. One instance he's speaking on behalf of inner-city, gang-abiding thugs as his role model, the next he's questioning his origin as teachers describe his place in the world ("like hanging from trees, or dead in the street"). It's a passing moment on Saturation II that's disappointingly rare, a glimpse into the potential of these riotous, fun-loving kids who have bubbling, conscious interiors. And unlike the bevy of singles front-loading the album, 'Fight' inverts the formula by presenting both verses upfront, while saving the aggressive, unruly hook for the end.

King Gizzard - You Can Be Your Silhouette
Sketches Of Brunswick East | Psychedelic Pop

After the unyielding chaos that was Murder Of The Universe, King Gizzard were rightfully exhausted. Not just musically, not just laboriously, but conceptually as well. They needed a break from the apocalyptic Hell-scape they were creating, as even I felt the group was becoming a bit too obsessed. With that being said, Sketches Of Brunswick East was the perfect escape. Their style, especially in conjunction with Mild High Club, still as odd and unpredictable as ever, but that doesn't, nor should it, always mean pandemonium will ensue. 'You Can Be Your Silhouette' is a divine representation of that, more smooth and tranquil than anything King Gizzard has made ten times over. The singing is calm and undisturbed, a complete 180 from the band's typical vexation, and the lyrics follow suit, acting as self-motivation, a concept far removed from the otherworldly monstrosities that seep into their work. As far as the production goes, the soothing Jazz-Funk presents a sight that's all too familiar for those who periodically dip their nostalgic toes in the soundtrack for the cult video game Katamari Damacy. King Gizzard's unpredictable status just another aspect that would fit that game nicely. 

Liars - Face To Face With My Face
TFCF | Experimental Rock

Angus Andrew is on his own now after over a decade sporting at least one band member by his side. The result? Well, as Dennis Rodman once showed us, when you wear a bride's outfit, something's not quite right. That much could be seen all over Theme From Crying Fountain, a peculiar album that's constantly unsure of what it wants to be. Thing is, even though that cover aims to tell a different story, Liars have always been artistically-adept. Nothing changed here, as evidence by 'Face To Face With My Face,' a haunting, almost nocturnal look at a paranoid mental breakdown. Here, inspiration ranges from Radiohead's tone-clashing Amnesiac to Andy Stott's uncomfortably Dub Techno. The bass pours in, by force, as Andrew struggles to capture a concrete thought, mimicking feeling by using exasperated moans, groans, and howls. Midway through though, 'Face To Face' takes form as Andrew wrangles control of the mammoth beasts in the background, stringing them along in something that could be seen as a beat if you squint your ears. Here, emotion is shown at face value. It's not told or imitated, but enacted. Unsteady, unsure, and most assuredly anxious, 'Face To Face' paints a grim portrait of a man struggling with his identity.

Milo - Embroidering Machine
Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?! | Art Rap

Throughout Who Told You To Think, Milo unspooled his ponderous thoughts by way of mystifying obscurities. It was nothing out of the ordinary for the Art Rap musician, apart from how he presented it. Showing wit, sophistication, and a fundamental need for maturity, Milo's gleaming beacon showered in quaint, existential thought. This came to its ultimate fruition on 'Embroidering Machine,' a late album showcase of Milo's myriad of skills. Rapping? Check. Producing? Check. Crisp composition? Check. That latter one, in particular, a rarity for Milo, as the primary concerns of the former two overwhelm the majority of his songs. But on 'Embroidering Machine,' pace and patience play a crucial role. He cruises over minimalistic Jazz Rap while backing away for the set pieces to flourish. There's even a minor beat switch to classic, bacchanal hiss, before lingering long enough for a lovely outro that's Hip-Hop in its most sublime form. Milo excluded, as, no matter the level of arrogance, the artist knows when you step aside and soak in the transcendent.

Denzel Curry - Bloodshed
13 | Experimental Trap

Unless something's slipped my mind, which would mean it doesn't deserve this label to begin with, Denzel Curry's 13 has been the biggest surprise of 2017 for me thus far. The stunning, Industrial Hip-Hop salvo was only possible when fear of success and reticence was stripped from the human's brain creating it. Imperial failed to do that, attracting conventional attention to garner a fanbase. With 13, Curry only cared for the art form, proving, in the process, what he's capable of. No track showed that better than 'Bloodshed,' a perpetually-building banger that traced his unilateral flows like a pen handled by a baboon. The beat, and more specifically, the stirringly-timed bass drops complimented Curry's aggression like no other. Without a need to care for contingencies, the demented style flew off the rails before the rails were even screwed in. 'Bloodshed's' rallying cry finds itself amidst a riot, like much of 13, only held together by the oppressed using the hysteria as a symbol for brutality. Here, Curry has no fears, as we saw vividly on 'Tomorrow's Not Here.' The unleashed manic proved in three panting minutes his potential as a bridge between Trap and Experimental Hip-Hop.

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